Fathom 12 addresses five themes.
First, the rise of the new antisemitism. Alex Chalmers hit the headlines when he resigned as co-chair of Oxford University Labour Club, alleging a ‘large proportion’ of club members had ‘some kind of problem with Jews’, while many used the slur ‘Zio’ and voiced support for Hamas. In this issue he writes about the spreading culture of ‘antisemitic anti-Zionism’ on the Left and its role in the degeneration of the Labour club. Robert Fine reviews Kenneth L. Marcus’s important new study ‘The Definition of Anti-Semitism’.
Second, the future of the two-state solution. The Fathom editors announced in our founding statement that we would be artisans and partisans of the two state solution. We adamantly refuse to drift with those who through a failure of nerve, a lack of political seriousness or a sectarian maximalist agenda are exiting the paradigm of two states for two peoples and embracing the – let’s call it what it is – reactionary fantasy of the so-called one state solution. Over half the issue is devoted to putting some intellectual substance back into the two state paradigm. In a major survey, Toby Greene critically examines new proposals on the Israeli centre-left for a permanent change to the status quo, addresses some of the political challenges they face and how the international community might help overcome them. Yair Hirschfeld, a key architect of the Oslo Accords, draws out the harsh lessons of the last 20 years of peace-making, Rabbi Michael Melchior explores the long-neglected importance of ‘religious peace’, while the former Palestinian Authority Minister for Prisoner Affairs, Ashraf al-Ajrami makes the case for the Arab Peace Initiative to be grasped as a basis for the renewal of the peace process.
The idea of a one-state solution received a major intellectual boost in late 2015 when Perry Anderson, former editor of New Left Review, ‘the flag-ship journal of the Western left’, and one of the world’s leading intellectuals, used its pages to issue a secular version of a Papal edict, excommunicating the two-state solution and anointing an alternative: ‘the demand for one state is now the best Palestinian option available.’ Our symposium carries highly critical and expert responses to Anderson’s ‘The House of Zion’ from Michael Walzer, John Strawson, Cary Nelson, Einat Wilf and Shany Mor.
Third, in a comprehensive and clear-sighted survey, Fathom deputy editor Calev Ben-Dor assesses the implications of regional disintegration for Israeli security and the peace process. Ben-Dor maps a region beset by fractured, dysfunctional states experiencing an erosion of control over their sovereign borders and a steep increase in ethnic and religious tension. He argues that the consequence of the US preference to reduce its regional commitments has been the rise of malign actors: a resurgent Russia, a regionally ambitious Iran and emboldened sub-state actors such as Hezbollah and Islamic State. These forces have partially filled the vacuum created by US retreat. In short, absent internal or external powers willing or capable of establishing order, chaos and instability look set to remain a fact of life in 2016.
Fourth, we map trends on the left and right of Israeli politics. Eylon Aslan-Levy examines a recent controversy – Nawigate – that broke over the Israeli radical Left and, in his view, revealed some serious moral and political weaknesses on that part of the Left. Jonathan Rynhold reviews Colin Shindlers’s important new monograph The Rise of the Israeli Right: From Odessa to Hebron.
Fifth, we again take the temperature of the UK-Israel relationship. Alex Brummer offers a crisp analytical overview of their burgeoning economic ties: with bilateral trade soaring to an estimated £5 billion a year, the UK is now Israel’s third biggest trading partner after the United States and Hong Kong, and the old colonial power and its former Middle East protectorate are creating an economic nexus. Keith Kahn-Harris reviews Svenja Gertheiss’s study of Diasporic activism in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, reflecting thoughtfully, and helpfully, on the air of incomprehension which often pervades intra-Jewish conflicts over Israel in the UK.